Thursday, January 21, 2010

Paint Versus Ink


(More on that later.)

Yesterday when I tried to return a new Joel Schumacher film about a Nazi vampire, a tortured-yet-resilient teenage girl (“I’ve been seventeen longer than you’ve been alive”) and a zombie dog [zombie dog! zombie dog!] to the Redbox machine outside Walgreens the machine wouldn’t let me return the movie because it was full. So I walked over to the Jewel-Osco store and returned the movie at the Redbox machine there.

While I was at Jewels I bought some groceries and checked out the school supplies aisle. They were selling a pack of Crayola nylon brushes for about $2 so I bought a set. They’re not what you’d call great brushes, but they’re well-made nylon brushes. For two bucks you get three rounds and two flats.

Here’s why I bought them.

For the last few weeks I’ve been very, very happy doing cartoons with Prismacolor markers. But the issue I have with Prismacolor markers is that small sets of Prismacolor markers come with colors that are all reasonably intense. But if you want to create constructed colors you generally need to layer muted colors. So if you want to make constructed colors with Prismacolor markers either you need to buy individual markers in muted shades or you need to buy one of the very cool—but very expensive—large sets of markers.

Even if you go to Cheap Joe’s the large set of Prismacolor markers costs $319.

On the other hand if you have a dozen or so pans or tubes of watercolor paints or acrylic paints you can mix any color you can imagine. And if you apply paint with dry brush techniques you can mimic the look and effects of markers.

I hate messing with a good thing—I’m very happy using Prismacolor markers for rendering color—but I like creating constructed colors. And although I certainly like spending money and buying things, I can’t really bring myself to spend three hundred dollars for the big set of Prismacolors.

So I bought the set of nylon brushes thinking that maybe this weekend I’ll try substituting carefully mixed and carefully applied watercolors for markers.

Maybe. I’m being indecisive about the whole thing and I know Dagny would never love me, but I’m giving it some thought.

The whole issue of what is paint and what is ink can take up entire chapters of something like philosophical speculations in art books. You hear talk of “dyes” versus “pigments” and “bonding” versus “surfacing” but by the time anybody bothers looking up all the definitions and chemical properties the bottom line turns out to be that paints and inks are THE SAME FUCKING THINGS.

They’re both pigments in a binder.

The pigments may—or may not!—be different sizes and the binder may be chemically simple or complex. But paints and inks are both just pigments in binders and the difference is really a matter of convention, referring more to how the products are used than what they are made of.

Calligraphers—remember those people?—have long used both paints and inks for their work. And commercial illustrators have always paid more attention to how things look rather than what label a manufacturer puts on the product.

In practical terms it’s easier to get bold, intense colors with inks and markers while it’s easier to get subtle, muted shades with paints.

But modern paints are very intense so paints can give you the best of both worlds. And save you money and shopping around.

But markers have a persona all their own quite different from brushes and I’ve been very happy using Prismacolor markers these last few weeks.

So I’m being all indecisive in my thinking about switching.


I’ve got the brushes.

No comments: